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Arkady Grudzinsky

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Is "free will" an illusion?

Can someone explain to me how to understand "free will" from a purely materialistic point of view?

Let's assume that my mind is a product of my physical brain. This means that everything that's going on in my mind is a product of neural activity. Say, I'm looking at a can of vanilla and a can of strawberry ice cream and try to make my choice. WHO makes the choice?

Again, if my mind is nothing more than neural activity, then, perhaps, visual stimulus activates some associations and connections from my past experiences, and I pick vanilla, because it is associated with some childhood memory. This means that our response to every situation is predetermined by the neural connections that make my memories. Right?

Doesn't this mean that "free will" is an illusion? Can we really make decisions or do decisions "just happen"? If not, then WHO makes the decisions?

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    Oct 19 2012:  I am not sure if you could ask a more difficult question, except maybe to explain consciousness itself in a materialistic way. As a materialist I have asked myself this many times. Some parts of me want to say we do not have free will and infact consciousness itself is an illusion. However, this goes against my daily experience where i feel i have complete control of my choices and i am very conscious. If we are made up of trillions upon trillions of particles, which i believe, then i don't believe there is a singular entity we can call ourselves. I think we are a combination of particles that store information and together use this information to best keep from destruction. What we experience as consciousness and free will is actually just the trillions of possibilities that could have happened. This is a very crude and unfinished answer to your very difficult question, if anyone could also help me with some insight to this it would be greatly appreciated.
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      Oct 20 2012: I agree Marshal, that we may be made up of trillions of particles, and in that respect, we are all interconnected. I also agree that there may be many possibilities that "could" happen at any given time, and we make choices and decisions based on information we take in and "store". I believe the brain is a recepticle and storage for information. I also believe that information is carried with the energy that flows through us, and you have done a GREAT job of describing the process:>)
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      Oct 20 2012: Theodore has shared an article, but his comment disappeared.
      http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/first-person-plural/307055/

      The notion of multiple personalities inside our head brings up a question: is it reasonable to say that a nation or a community (e.g. a church) has "free will"?

      It hardly can be said that a neuron has a personality or a will - it's just a cell. But if trillions of neurons or millions of people collectively can be said to "have free will", can the same be said of the universe? Then, don't we come to Pat's idea of a universal "free will" (except that it cannot exist without matter)? Isn't this idea, then, similar to what Coleen calls "energy" or Christians call "the Holy Spirit"?
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        Oct 20 2012: Arkady: so much for free will.

        For me the universe is the actual expression of Being - within which life consciously participates.

        Human consciousness only is a top layer of life's consciousness which became possible after the enclosure of a self sustaining process within a cellular membrane. This process involves a chemical communication through that membrane to take in and release molecules as needed to sustain life. Knowledge of the availability and necessity of particular molecules is primeval. Multi cellular organisms just are strategies to be more efficient for this perpetuation of the one cell.

        That’s why I can’t go in on your other question about robotics which to me can never go beyond simulation. Behind life there’s a motivating force perpetuating awareness and expanding consciousness unto where it encompasses the universe. No manmade object ever will have any properties that equals consciousness because they are units while life and the universe is a unity.

        Perception is an act that involves the perceived and the perceiver by which any organism only functions as a modulator for how it is perceived.
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        Oct 20 2012: Arkady,
        Regarding multiple personalities...
        I suggest that we all have many different personas and characteristics, and each individual will often focus on one, two or several, as his/her identity. The many different "parts" of our "self" are what give us the ability to reach out to others with compassion and empathy. What causes genuine compassion/empathy? We need to "feel" what another person is feeling? Imagine ourselves in another person's situation? Even though we may not completely "know" what another person is feeling, we can imagine, or speculate because of the different personas or characteristics that we may not get in touch with on a daily basis as part of who we are....make any sense? I ask this...."make any sense", because if something does NOT make sense on a logical basis, we will not accept or understand it.

        The article you mention, starts out by saying..."we each have multiple selves- all with different desires and all fighting for control".

        I didn't even read any further, because I do not agree with the very first statement, and I think it sends a counterproductive message.

        As I said in the beginning of this comment, I believe we have many different personas, and if we understand this, they can work together, rather than having "different desires and all fighting for control".

        We CAN have the will, and we DO have the freedom, to decide if we allow different "parts" of our "self" to work together (mindfully aware), or if we are going to allow those personas to constantly fight against each other.

        I say we CAN bring ourselves together as a nation or community to work toward similar goals. This would involve the free will choices on the part of members of a group. Yes, I agree that there is a "universal free will", and I also agree that it is the same as what I call energy, and what some people may call spirit, soul, etc. I believe that the terms spirit, soul, god, etc., were created by humans to try to explain the energy that flows through us
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          Oct 21 2012: Re: "Declaring that you have free will does not make it so. It simply means that you BELIEVE you have free will."

          Theodore, there are things which come into existence solely because we believe they exist. E.g. values, rights, love, or happiness. Free will seems to belong in that category as well. We are happy when we believe we are happy. When Coleen says, "I believe, I have free will", she does, which she was able to demonstrate by choosing not to read the article :-).
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        Oct 20 2012: Theodore,
        I have the free will and the right to CHOOSE what I want to read....preferably without harrassment from you. I do not respond favorably to people who tell me what I "should" do.....I have free will.

        I see no purpose whatsoever in continuing a conversation with me, and I would appreciate it if you did not continue to try. As you may, or may not have noticed, I have not been responding to your comments, because you seem to want to be controversial, and that does not interest me.

        I actually HAVE NOT been dismissive of anyone's point of view. I simply used my free will to NOT read a document you provided. Thank you for the opportunity to test my patience:>)
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        Oct 21 2012: Theodore,
        I am NOT dismissive of anything, or anyone. I chose not to read an article that you submitted as "proof" of something....get over it!

        You wrote..."What is the purpose at this point of continuing in a conversation with you when your only interest is to spout your point of view and are dismissive of my point of view or those of others?"

        I responded..."I see no purpose whatsoever in continuing a conversation with me..."

        Theodore, YOU have suggested TWICE that there is no point in continuing conversation with me, and yet you keep coming back to me, apparently for the purpose of berating me?

        I KNOW what the conversation is about Theodore, and I am participating with comments that are on topic. Declaring that I have free will DOES INDEED make it SO...FOR ME. If you choose NOT to believe that you have free will, I respect YOUR choice for YOU. That is PRECISELY why I speak about me, and me alone. Each and every individual makes a choice for him/her "self", and I do not presume to speak as a representative of "WE". If you want to try to speak for EVERYONE, go ahead.....how's that working for you so far?

        Theodore, the information I share is from 60+ years of the exploration of life, reading hundreds of books written by sages, teachers, gurus, philosophers, psychologists, etc. etc, attending and facilitating hundreds of workshops, discussion groups and support groups, guest lecturing at univ., and various other institutions of learning, interacting with people who are incarcerated, in shelters, in terminal care facilities, etc. etc. etc. I have faced life AND death with gusto. The MOST IMPORTANT for me, is that I have applied the information that has come to me with various life experiences, and that is something each and every one of us can do.....if we choose.

        If you want to have a respectful, interactive conversation, I am happy to participate with you. Otherwise, stop harrassing me NOW.

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